Sometimes when you ask a question, you really don’t want to know the answer. This was one of those occasions.
The lady on the far side of the river looked slightly confused by a man from Dundee wearing pink socks bellowing his best Scottish-Estonian greeting.
“Hello. Hello. Hellooooooo!”
It was hard to know if her reply was aimed in our direction, but when her husband arrived at her side brandishing a saw, it was clear she’d called for reinforcements against the three sodden fools emerging from the forest.
We explained ourselves. We talked the saw down.
We’d interrupted the good people of rural Estonia on a Sunday morning for good reason.
Takamoto Katsuta had just cartwheeled close to a million Euros worth of car through woods, just over there. Or was it over there? Or perhaps back the way we came, but turning left instead of right at the first fallen tree.
In short, we were a bit lost.
The plan had been a simple one. We’d seen where the #18 Yaris WRC had landed, looked on the maps and decided it was accessible from a road and a long-ish walk through woods. Little did we know…
And then one of us – it might have been me – asked the question we wanted only one answer to.
“Do you ever get bears here?”
She considered the question and then offered an answer all-too honest for my liking.
“The man who was building that road saw one.”
She then pointed us in the direction of said road and told us that would lead us to where the rally cars were.
We thanked her and disappeared, once more, back into the trees.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never walked through such dense vegetation in my life. For some reason, I’d been sent to the front to carve a path through this bear-infested madness. It’s fair to say, I didn’t enjoy it. Particularly not, for the second time, when the lush green grass parted beneath my feet to reveal an ankle-deep bog.
And what’s with the frogs in Estonia? Genuinely, in my entire life, I have never ever seen as many of them. More than once, Colin Clark threatened me with my life as I swerved to avoid squishing one of their brethren with one of the four fat tires sitting at each corner of our particularly weighty Landcruiser hire car.
Standing trying to extract my boot (thankfully with the foot still inside), one medium-sized frog was trying to find a way around my leg – only to keep leaping at it and headbutting my shin.
We were both captivated by the moment. And both asking if our Sunday morning was working out the way we’d planned…
Finally, we saw a flash of red. White. And black. Dan Barritt has never been such a welcome sight. But we weren’t there yet. Two rivers (some less geographically minded folk might have described them as streams…) lay between us.
With a huge leap, we were just about able to clear them. Fortunately, ace DirtFish cameraman Heikki was a bit preoccupied to consider videoing my technique.
I’d left the hotel room anticipating a day in the press office – not auditioning to be Indiana Jones stunt bloody double. My boots were the fairly swish sort that come complete with leather soles and not even a hint of grip.
Departure from one side of the bank had to be done vertically with the forward motion coming mid-air. Trying to move longitudinally from lift-off would have left me face down in the river.
Landing was a similarly technical operation. I had go in hard and heel first. Failure to do so would have landed me ass-first into the same river. Apparently, my technique was quite amusing.
Whatever. I made it. We all made it. And I’d like to think our efforts brightened an otherwise miserable morning for Taka and Dan.
The glorious high of landing the only interview that mattered on Sunday morning – particularly following Katsuta’s inspired effort through day one – was tempered by the realization that we’d then got to make the whole journey in reverse.
An hour later, chinos wringing wet from mid-thigh south, we were back over the river from the bear-news bearer.
Her greeting was much warmer second time around.
“I never saw nobody coming through the forest that way before.”
Any Sunday morning containing the words: “We have to get to higher ground…” is going to be livelier than time sat typing. Last Sunday was a genuine adventure.
Hope you enjoyed the video.